Business owner Jordyn Wright had to leave a big meeting of entrepreneurs early.
But she had a good reason.
She was playing in her high school volleyball match.
“People ask me about balancing work and school a lot,” said the 14-year-old Houston-based “teenpreneur,” as she refers to herself and fellow youth small-business owners. “I think it’s important to take breaks to do things like a normal teenager.”
As in, taking breaks while running J. Brielle Handmade Goods, a bath and body products company she launched in 2018. And writing a best-selling book offering teens tips on how to start a company and build a brand. And leading Passion to Purpose, the program she founded to elevate access to youth financial literacy and business training.
She may, indeed, take time to focus on being a “normal” teenager. But “amazing” is more accurate.
“Jordyn is a caring, creative, authentic, old-school hard worker and passionate self-starter,” said Tania Daniel, senior director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives with Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas.
It was those qualities that prompted Daniel to nominate Wright for the tuition-free ICCC business training event that Regions Bank brought to Houston for the second year in a row. ICCC stands for Inner City Capital Connections. It’s part of a nonprofit founded by Harvard Business School Professor Dr. Michael Porter to uplift small businesses in America’s cities.
“The opportunities this program provides will empower her business to thrive even more,” Daniel said, “while the networks and professional connections will be pivotal as she advances to high school and college.”
Except for the “still being in high school part”, what Daniel said about ICCC applies to thousands of business owners – of all ages – who are among the program’s alumni. ICCC’s basic model is to work with companies like Regions Bank, organize high-impact training seminars, and leverage the insights of nationally recognized business educators who work with ICCC to help entrepreneurs strengthen their business plans, position themselves for growth, and create more jobs. The program is specifically designed for entrepreneurs in, or serving, under-resourced communities. One-on-one business coaching and online tools are also provided – also free of charge.
Paula Bradley is a community relations officer for Regions Bank. During the ICCC Houston event in 2021, she saw first-hand how experienced business owners benefited. She knew in 2022, younger entrepreneurs could benefit as well.
Our history of working with Junior Achievement offered a perfect way to collaborate, and the result is younger entrepreneurs like Jordyn are even more prepared to build long-term success
Paula Bradley, Community relations officer for Regions Bank
“Our history of working with Junior Achievement offered a perfect way to collaborate, and the result is younger entrepreneurs like Jordyn are even more prepared to build long-term success,” Bradley said. “A vibrant and diverse small-business community is crucial to the economic health of any city, including one as large as Houston. In addition to Jordyn, dozens of adult business owners are part of this year’s program. What all of them are learning today will benefit them and their employees, as well as their customers and surrounding communities, for years to come.”
Wright’s entry into the entrepreneurial space stemmed from a personal need.
“I started my first business when I was 10 because I had a skin condition called eczema,” she said. “I wanted sparkly, colorful options for body products, so I began making my own out of my home. Everything has natural ingredients, is super moisturizing and smells amazing.”
Today, Wright’s soaps, body butters, lotions and more are available online. She recently began working with a retailer and sells them at vendor markets – including one she started.
“At our first summer market, we had around seven to 10 youth vendors,” said Wright. “This year, we had 17. I was really excited to see that.”
Wright also hosts a youth entrepreneur holiday market, a venture that focuses on much more than sales.
“We take donations,” Wright explained of the Joy Drive. “I gather toys, food, hygiene products, make-up and books. We donated about 50 bags to a shelter for homeless teens last year.”
Meaning not only does she have the skills to run a business – she has the commitment to others that really makes a difference.
“Serving others is a really big motivator for me, because if I was focused on myself on the time, I would be miserable,” she explained. “Being able to serve other allows you to see the impact you can make.”
Ten percent of all J. Brielle product sales benefit youth empowerment programs like Young Biz Kidz, a nonprofit coaching youth to become highly engaged community citizens. The nonprofit’s founder, Ariel Bivens-Biggs, has become a mentor to Wright.
“I initially thought Jordyn was quiet, but when you hear her speak of her entrepreneurship journey, she’s a different child,” said Bivens-Biggs. “She’s bold, she’s edgy, she’s very confident. I’ve seen her grow in her critical thinking and problem-solving skills. She understands what she wants to do.”
Another mentor? Anissa Wright, Jordyn’s mom.
“My parents and those around me really gave me the push and encouragement to start,” she said. “I saw there wasn’t a lot of representation. Seeing someone who looks like you in this field can be amazing. Representation matters.”
What does Anissa think of everything Jordyn has achieved?
“I can’t even put it into words,” she said. “I am so proud to be her mom.”
In addition to learning from mentors, Wright learned a lot from her ICCC experience (see below for specifics!). But how would she advise someone thinking of starting a company?
“My best advice would be to not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, and, even if you are afraid, do it anyway,” she said. “You may have an impact you don’t know you have. Even if it’s an adult you’re talking with, you may inspire them.”
The teenpreneur and now ICCC alumna shares her top three workshop takeaways:
- “Go deep, not wide.” – presented by Anthony C. Hood, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief DEI Officer, First Horizon Bank. “When I first started my business, I tried to go wide, I was doing a whole lot with different products,” said Wright. “I learned to go deep by perfecting each product. It was something I had to learn the hard way.”
- “Realize, realign and reset.” – presented by Dobbin Bookman, Director, Harvard Business School. “This really resonated with me because it’s something I can apply to all areas of my life, not just my business,” Wright said. “Realize when you’re stressed out or that you’re having problems. When that occurs, realign with your purpose. My purpose is to teach other youth about entrepreneurship. Then, reset. Reset and take a break for myself so I can better execute my purpose.”
- Value = Quality plus service divided by cost – presented by Terry Esper, PhD, Associate Professor of Marketing, The Ohio State University. “It simplifies how customer service should be done and how customers can find value in your service or product,” said Wright. “I really like the simplicity of it. I also appreciated it because I like math.”